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Seven Tips for More Professional Driving

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 5 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Tip Driving Professional Defensive

Would you like to improve your driving style, eliminating some of the mistakes that you tend to make or reduce the likelihood of becoming involved in an accident? Most motorists get taught the basics of defensive driving before they pass their test, but for many of us, these skills become weaker the longer we drive.

Defensive driving is an approach that can be acquired, as long as you know the tips on how to make sure that good habits become a natural part of your driving. Here we give you seven tips on how to drive more professionally.

Tip one: Give yourself a Longer Response Time

One of the biggest traps that motorists tend to fall into is to become too fixated on the car ahead, travelling too close to be able to get themselves out of trouble if something goes wrong up ahead.

According to research conducted by the BMW performance driving school, up to 80 percent of accidents are caused by drivers having too little time to respond. In many incidents accidents could have been avoided if the driver had just one more second to react accordingly.

Defensive driving specialists believe that drivers should be aiming to look ahead by around 12 seconds. They recommend finding an object in the distance, an exit sign or advertising perhaps, that takes 12 seconds of counting to reach.

By looking ahead to this distance, instead of keeping your focus on the bumper or read windscreen of the car in front your brain can not only pay attention to objects in front, but will also help you avoid trouble taking place slightly further ahead.

Tip two: Practise improving your Concentration

Driving can become second nature, and the risk attached with that is that it soon becomes monotonous, making it easy for concentration to slip. When we become too comfortable in our driving we can become over-confident, fiddling with the car stereo, eating or talking on the phone.

To try to maintain your concentration levels, you should from time to time plan different ‘what if’ scenarios. These don’t have to be too distracting or disturbing, but should introduce an element of risk that could potentially happen and need to be accounted for.

Standard examples used by defensive driving instructors include asking what would happen if the bicycle attached to a roof rack of a car in front suddenly became loose from its attachments. What about if the lorry to the left of you suddenly decided to pull into your lane without warning?

By giving yourself little dilemmas to solve in your head, you are keeping up a higher level of concentration, which could prove invaluable if another problem or potential accident presents itself.

Tip three: Keep a Cool Head

According to accident studies, a surprising number of accidents involve cars that hit each other without either car avoiding the impact by either using their brakes or steering to avoid the collision.

The reason? Most drivers, when about to experience an accident simply stare transfixed by the vehicle coming towards them, caught like a deer or rabbit in the headlights. It is a natural response, but not a helpful or safe one.

Instead, defensive driving instructors advise that drivers facing an oncoming car should be looking to identify an open area and aim to drive in that direction. Just make sure that you are driving towards a gap and not a tree or a lamppost.

Tip four: Slow Down

Speed remains the biggest contributor to accidents, besides driver error of course. To eliminate the latter, you should think about the former, and cut your speed early to avoid potential danger.

In poor weather, heavy traffic, roadworks, the simplest and safest course of action is to take your foot off the accelerator. Sudden braking means that the weight of the car is transferred from the rear of the vehicle to the front, making it off balance and harder to control. By slowing down early your car becomes easier to control and less likely to be involved in a collision.

Tip five: Hand Positioning is VitalIf you can remember your driving test as being quite a few years back, then chances are that you were taught that the correct hand position for the steering wheel was the ‘ten to two’ position.

Most driving instructors now prefer for drivers to hold the wheel instead at the ‘nine o’clock and three o’clock’ positions, as it is believed that this position minimises the risk of injury that can be associated with airbag deployment.

Practise holding the steering wheel at this new position, and with your arms slightly bent at all times. Soon it should become the most comfortable position for you to use.

Tip six: Always Plan a Way OutMiddle lane drivers have a notoriety that comes with their persistent refusal to move out of the middle lane on a motorway. The middle lane is also the most dangerous place to be in the event of an accident, as the driver is too hemmed in to be able to avoid a collision by moving left or right.

Try to avoid being unnecessarily stuck in the middle lane for too long, and always position your car well when compared against other vehicles, and be prepared to pull into different lanes smoothly and safely at short notice.

Tip seven: Practise Emergency BrakingWhen was the last time you practiced an emergency stop? Chances are it was during your driving test. Good braking is an essential skill to acquire, even though it is one that we hope we never have to use.

If you’d like to brush up on your braking, then it might be worthwhile going to an empty car park and getting a better feel of how your brakes respond when pressed suddenly. If, for example, your car is fitted with anti-lock brakes (ABS) they are likely to still give you some steering control when pressed.

Brakes that are not ABS need to be pumped rather than pressed in an emergency, and need to be released in order to allow the driver to steer. You should give yourself practise and understand exactly how your brakes respond so that you can use them correctly when you need to.

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